TASMANIA: Off the beaten track

It has dramatic landscapes of ocean and mountain; lush forest and rushing rivers. Incredible wildlife that thrives in its relative isolation plus a cultural history as rich and varied as the people that settled there. Tasmania is a truly magical place to visit and we've picked 5 stand out attractions that are just a little bit beyond the tourist trail.

1. Gunns Plains Cave

Discovered purely by chance by a possum hunter in 1906, Gunns Plains Cave is the centrepiece of the Gunns Plains State Reserve. Daily tours lead you down 54 rather steep stairs to the bottom of the large vaulted-ceilinged cavern. Don't grumble about the steps though – originally visitors had to be lowered by rope from a hole in the caverns roof – that's a height equivalent to three storeys! Not all of the cave is open to the public, luckily what is has the most beautiful calcite shawls and flowstones; helictites, stalactites and stalagmites. Formed by a river that still runs through the cave, you'll see some spectacular Glow Worm (in)action. The river itself is home to eels, Giant Freshwater Lobster and fish; plus platypus often nest and sleep along the sandy river bank. Managed by Parks and Wildlife Tasmania, tours run 7 days a week. 

Gunns Plains State Reserve is located in Northwestern Tasmania, approximately a 1hr 40min drive from Launceston or 40mins from Burnie

 2. Bridestowe Lavender Estate

If you find yourself in Tasmania during December or January, make time to visit the small town of Nabowla. Famous for its mural touting telegraph poles, it's also home to the gorgeous Bridestowe Lavender Estate. Beautifully restored, the estate boasts 265 acres of lavender as well as a fascinating visitors centre where you can learn just why Bridestowe Lavender is sought after worldwide; a boutique where you can purchase lavender products, and a café – the Woodcroft – which is famous for its divine treats including lavender ice cream; Lavender Flower Honey, and Bridestowe's own gourmet range of artisanal jams and jellies. Bridestowe Lavender Estate is like something from a dream – utterly beautiful and unforgettable.

Bridestowe Lavender Estate is approximately a 40 minute drive north from Launceston; and 40mins south from Bridport.

3. World Heritage Cruise

Right in the heart of the World Heritage Listed wilderness, Strahan is renowned as the gateway to one of the last true wild river systems in the world. A 5th generation family business, World Heritage Cruises know just how important the Franklin-Gordon Wild River. and  the South-West Wilderness National Parks are which is why their boat is custom designed to minimise ecological impact on the riverbanks they cruise by daily. Sit back and enjoy the majestic scenery as you're guided through Hell's Gate – the narrow entrance to Macquarie Harbor nicknamed by convicts heading to the infamous Sarah Island, before seeing the state of the art aquaculture pens that have made Tasmania's Atlantic Salmon and Ocean Trout world famous. From there you get to see Sarah Island for yourself before cruising along the Gordon River stopping for a meal at Heritage Landing where you explore amongst the ancient Huon pine including one that is over 2000 years old.

Strahan is approximately a 4 hour drive from Hobart

4. Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot

Not just for the kids, Tasmazia is one of those places you really have to see to believe! Imagine 8 giant mazes – all with a different theme, set amongst a model village that is built to a 1/5th scale – a village called Lower Crack Pot. A remarkable work of art in itself, Tasmazia and Lower Crack Pot are part of a working Lavender Farm which explains the gourmet Honey Boutique – specialising in flavored honeys. There's also a Pancake Parlor, for which there is no real explanation other than they make yummy pancakes. Head along in January if you can – the lavender will be in bloom so the purple blue fields will add another surreal aspect to your trip.

You'll find Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot at the Promised Land (yes that really is what the district is called) which is approximately a 40minute drive from Devonport and a 1hr 20min drive from Launceston.

5. Hollybank Treetops Adventure

It's an amazing high, and totally legal. Hollybank Treetops Adventure offer zipline tours through the mid canopy of the Hollybank Eucalypts Forest. At heights of about 30m you zip between cloud stations periodically built around giant trees. Worried about the height? Don't be. You're fully secured to the zipline by a safety harness with pulleys to guide and control your journey. That way you get to experience the sweet serenity of the forest yet enjoy the pure exhilaration of the zipline.  Of course your safety is #1, and the team at Hollybank Treetops Adventure are 100% behind making sure you feel safe, secure and that you have an awesome time.  Each group of no more than 14 people gets 2 fully qualified guides who know all about the area and its wildlife. It's a great way to learn about beautiful Tasmania while having a wonderful time.  If you're still not keen on getting up high, book a Segway tour through the forest instead.

Hollybank Treetops Adventure is approximately a 20 minute drive north of Launceston.

By Sarah McMullan – July 2013